Which Medium-Sized Breed is Just Right for You?
Of these 12 breeds that are not too big or too small, many are suited to either city or country living—as long as they get enough exercise.
We’ve asked Gail Miller Bisher, director of communications for the Westminster Kennel Club, to share more information about these popular breeds to help you find out which medium-sized dog might be the right fit for you.
American Eskimo: An Eye-Catching Companion
With its thick, striking coat and plumed, curling tail, it’s no surprise that the all-white or white-and-biscuit-colored American Eskimo gained notice as an entertainer in traveling circuses during the late 19th century in the United States. The American Eskimo is related to the Nordic breed of dogs in Europe known as the Spitz. In fact, the American Eskimo was called the American Spitz until 1917.
The American Eskimo’s coat is both eye-catching and practical. “They’re very pretty and bred for cooler temperatures,” says Bisher. Its thick, double coat sheds quite a bit and requires weekly brushing.
Australian Shepherd: Strong Herding Instincts
Another misnomer, the Australian Shepherd originated in the western United States, although the breed got its name because of its association with sheepherders who came to the U.S. from Australia in the 1800s, according to the WKC. Australian Shepherds are valued for their strong herding instincts. “The Australian Shepherd may try to herd children, other dogs or moving cars,” says Bisher, so they definitely need to be leashed on walks.
Trainable and eager to please, the breed is also used as search and rescue dogs, detection dogs, and service and therapy dogs. The intelligent and active Australian Shepherd enjoys obedience and agility training, and needs plenty of exercise.
Boxer: Powerful but Patient
Powerfully built and protective, the Boxer has the bearing of a much larger dog but is nevertheless patient and affectionate with his or her people. The Boxer descends from canine ancestors in Germany called Bullenbeisers, which were used to run down bear and boar, according to the WKC. The Boxer is energetic and alert, with soulful eyes and a furrowed brow that give the dog an especially expressive face.
The Boxer’s short, smooth coat is easy to maintain. “The Boxer is an active dog that needs exercise,” says Bisher. Fortunately, the breed is happy to be wherever his people are. “They love going places with their families,” she says.
Dalmatian: More Than Its Markings
The origin of the Dalmatian breed is up for debate, but it is historically associated with a province of Austria called Dalmatia since the 18th century, although ancestors of the Dalmatian are believed to be much older. White with black- or liver-colored spots, the Dalmatian is an intelligent, versatile breed, used for everything from herding and hunting to firehouse mascot and family companion.
The Dalmatian has remained a popular breed, possibly due to both its unique looks and the various Disney incarnations of the “101 Dalmatians” story. Bisher says that the Dalmatian is among the best medium-sized dog breeds for families and is known for its loyalty and friendly temperament.
Icelandic Sheepdog: A Cold-Weather Friend
Iceland’s only native dog breed, the Icelandic Sheepdog came to the island with the first Viking settlers and was used to herd livestock. Not surprisingly, their coats are very thick and can be either long or short to protect the dog from harsh weather. Lively and inquisitive, the Icelandic Sheepdog needs plenty of exercise.
The Icelandic Sheepdog has ancient roots but has become a popular pet only relatively recently and was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2010. “They’re really a fun little breed,” says Bisher.
Kerry Blue Terrier: Lively and Mischievous
Originally hailing from County Kerry in southwestern Ireland, the Kerry Blue Terrier is a rugged, all-purpose farm and hunting dog, according to the WKC. The breed is known for its distinctive wavy, low-shedding coat that comes in shades of blue-gray. Puppies are born with black coats that later change color that can range from light silvery blue to dark slate-blue.
A true terrier, the Kerry Blue is mischievous and lively, and makes an excellent guard dog and companion for people who can give their dog lots of attention in return. “They’re always looking for the action—they want to be involved,” says Bisher.
Portuguese Podengo: A Hunter at Heart
The Portuguese Podengo descends from hounds used to hunt rabbit, deer and boar 2,000 years ago in Europe and North Africa. The modern version of the breed developed in Portugal in three sizes—Grande, Medio and Pequeno—with coats that are either smooth or wiry, according to the WKC.
The Portuguese Podengo Medio is playful, alert, highly intelligent and independent, making the breed not always easy to train, but a loving family member and loyal guard dog. Bisher points out that the Portuguese Podengo has “really serious hunting instincts” and therefore must always be leashed when out and about.
Shiba Inu: Foxy-Faced and Independent
The Shiba Inu was bred to hunt fowl, small game and wild boar in ancient Japan. The WKC says the Shiba Inu makes good family pets, particularly for those with older children, but can be strong-willed without proper socialization and obedience training.
With its distinctive, fox-like face and curling tail, the Shiba Inu is sure to draw attention wherever he or she goes. Bisher calls the Shiba Inu’s personality “very cat-like” because the breed is “very stoic, smart and quiet.”
Siberian Husky: Born to Run
The Siberian Husky was developed by the Chukchi people of northeastern Asia as an endurance sled dog, according to the WKC. The breed was introduced to the U.S. in the early 20th century when they competed in long-distance sled dog races in Alaska. Built for speed and endurance, the breed loves to run. Since the breed requires a lot of exercise, it may not be for everyone, Bisher says.
The Siberian Husky is affectionate with family and strangers alike but has strong predatory instincts and could pose a threat to small animals such as squirrels, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, hamsters and cats.
Tibetan Terrier: Long-Coated and Easy-Going
Though they are called terriers, Tibetan Terriers are medium-sized dogs that first appeared in the West in England. Tibetan Terriers have an easy-going temperament and a love of playtime, making the breed a great family pet.
The Tibetan Terrier’s most striking physical feature is its long, double coat, which requires regular grooming, so this breed may not be for everyone, says Bisher. The coat of this centuries-old breed was once crucial to its survival in Tibet’s harsh climate and difficult terrain, according to the WKC.
Viszla: Lean and Low-Maintenance
The Viszla developed in Hungary, used by the Magyar tribes as a hunting dog in the 8th century. The short-coated Viszla is golden red, with a lively but gentle temperament. The Viszla “is low-maintenance as far as grooming and lean in size,” says Bisher.
The breed was close to extinction after World War II but revived after being imported into the U.S. The intelligent and versatile Vizsla is used by the Transportation Security Administration, in search and rescue operations, and seeing eye dog programs.
Welsh Springer Spaniel: Active and Family-Oriented
The Welsh Springer Spaniel, a red-and-white hunting dog, was bred almost exclusively in Wales until the mid-20th century, the WKC says. Therefore, the breed was relatively unknown outside of the United Kingdom until recently.
The working breed needs lots of exercise and prefers to be active. Devoted to their people, Welsh Springer Spaniels “make a great family dog,” says Bisher.